First Ride: Kawasaki Versys 1000 review

A four-cylinder big brother to the popular Versys 650. It's not aimed at the GS, so who is it aimed at?

Posted: 1 December 2011
by Ben Cope
The Versys 1000 is available in Pearl Stardust White and Metallic Magnesium Grey

Enter Kawasaki's new Versys 1000, the younger but slightly bigger and uglier brother to the Z1000 and Z1000SX. It’s a 240kg, 1043cc, four-cylinder motorcycle with 'adventure' styling. However, Kawasaki were keen to tell us 'it’s not aimed at the GS', the bike that’s been at the top of the Adventure Sport category almost since the day it was launched.

Gone are the days where you could confidently stick a new motorcycle into an established class and weigh it up against the others. Like everything else in the world; motorcycling has become increasingly complicated over the last few years and the boundaries between categories have been blurred; the Versys 1000 joins the Versys 650 in Kawasaki’s ‘Dual Purpose’ category. The other Kawasaki’s in this category include the KLX250 and D-Tracker 125, which both look like off-roaders with a numberplate. 

So how do you make a Versys 1000? First take the frame and engine from the Z1000, add long-travel suspension, a 21-litre tank, a plush seat and voila, you’re pretty much there.

The engine changes and electronics are more siginificant than the figures suggest. Even though it uses the same 1043cc engine as the Z1000, the Versys 1000’s motor has been extensively re-worked to change its character almost completely and also features adjustable power modes and Kawasaki’s KTRC traction control system. Compression has been lowered from 11.8:1 to 10.3:1 and the cam profile has been altered to reduce lift and duration. Although the Versys 1000’s outright peak power and torque is lower than that of the Z1000, the Versys 1000 gains a huge dollop of additional torque in the lower rev-range and its torque curve is much flatter than any of its siblings.

Kawasaki have changed the gearing too, with 1st and 2nd gears being shorter to get you off the line that bit quicker while 3rd to 6th gears are taller, helping increase the Versys 1000’s mpg potential and therefore its range.

Despite its visual weight, the Versys 1000 is only a few kilograms heavier than the Z1000SX. Sat on the bike it feels roomy, the seat feels like a sofa cushion, infact sat on the bike isn’t quite accurate, you feel like you’re sat in it. The way the clocks and screen are perched out infront reminds me of Yamaha’s XTZ660 Ténéré. So it’s got the comfort of a tourer with the forward view of an adventure-style bike. With 21-litres of fuel onboard, it feels weighty but that’s the price you pay if you’re after Kawasaki’s claimed 250-mile range.

Straight out onto the motorway, the Versys 1000 is happy to cruise at a ton with the engine feeling like it’s barely revving. The Z1000’s motor has been morphed into a real workhorse, you can block change straight to 6th at 20mph and roll-on without the engine feeling like it’s about to shake itself to bits. The seat feels as comfortable as Kawasaki’s flagship tourer, the GTR1400.

While the seat will help you on your way to 200-miles without worrying about petrol stations, the screen won’t. It has 30mm of manual height adjustment and while wind protection is good for an ‘adventure styled’ bike, I’d want a wider screen if I was regularly riding over 50 miles at motorway speeds.

While great at motorway cruising, the Versys 1000 wasn’t as at home on the twisty mountainous Tenerife roads at the speeds we were riding at. If you’re looking to cruise along two-up and take in the scenery, you won’t get anywhere near the Versys’ limits and you’ll be perfectly happy. Wind the pace up a bit and you’ll quickly put the Versys into uncomfortable territory.

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wont sell.

Posted: 06/12/2011 at 17:36

No character

Posted: 06/12/2011 at 23:15

I'm guessing thet Kawa was in too far with KYB on those new forks to back out, so they are stuck with them, at least on this first edition.
Otherwise it sounds like a pretty capable bike, and I bet it looks better in the flesh than in pics.

Posted: 14/12/2011 at 18:42

I like it - A LOT. The doom prophets that say it won't sell, I think you are wrong.

Looks isn't everything - the same was said about the V-Strom originaly and today it is probably one of Suzuki's best sellers.

The 1000 Versys will be a nice bike for us older guys (45+), not that high for the just as old wife to get on to easily. I was looking at getting a Varadero, but I think I will wait for this. Will make a superb long distance bike - and no, you don't need a shaft for touring. . I will mount my Wingrack on it (make my own brackets) and will use my current Givi luggage. 

As long as you don't think it is and offroad/adventure bike, no matter what Kawasaki says. It will be like the Varadero and V-Strom, they have never been sold as offroaders. Yes, I know some guys do take them offroad, but they are not marketed as such. Even a R1200GS is a superb onroad (better than offroad) bike - I personally think it is BMW's best ever road bike, and by saying that I include the RT, GT and LT. But yeech!!, a single sided swingarm is ugly!!!. If I want something that looks like a car, I will buy a car - yes, there looks does matter to me.

Don't listen to official road testers. I've seen some bikes slated by them/him which turned out to very good bikes. These guys trash these bikes, and nobody (or most riders) ride like that. An example is the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere. Most testers did not like them and I've yet to hear an actual owner say it is a bad bike - I've actually heard some ex-GS owners mention it is better, despite it's weight.

There is no such thing as perfect bike anyway. They all have some issue somebody dislikes.

Wait 'till it is available, go ride it and decide then. A lot of bikes do not look good on pictures and in specs but are much better in the metal. E.g. GTR1400, XT1200Z etc. An example is the K1300S/GT. A few of the ex-K1200 owners I know said the differences on paper is not worth their while - until they actually rode it - big difference.

Posted: 23/12/2011 at 14:39

yeah I do wonder... after 30 mins i thought this was one of the best bikes I have have EVER ridden.. but to each his own

Posted: 17/01/2012 at 13:14

I rode it a week ago and when I got back to the dealership I had the biggest smile I have had for along time. It was like being 5 again and the best xmas ever. I've had the 650 for a year and love it. But the thousand is a different league. It was well worth buying the other half a new car last year so I can get this a.s.a.p

Posted: 24/01/2012 at 06:58

Rode it, Bought it, love it.
After 16 years on a cruiser and very recent back surgery and no longer being able to ride a cruiser due to the Bad back this bike is all that i need. The heavy duty rear end means i can pack it heavy with all the camping gear a girl needs to be comfortable ( No hairdryer for this chick,hair by helmet)
A day setting up the suspension to what is best solo and loaded and this is the perfect bike for me. Having test riden over 50 different bikes after my recent back surgery this is the only bike that had me comfortable from mounting to dismount an hour later.
I don't have to medicate to the floating eyeballs to ride this bike, the comfort offered on this bike at a very reasonable price with all of the electronic bits is awesome. Traction Control, ABS and selectablepower modes is great value for money.
Being a recent convert from feet forward lean back to sitting upright feet under bum is an entirely new way of riding for me.
This Bike " INSPIRES CONFIDENCE" every time i turn the key.
Australian roads being a fine collection of potholes cobbled together to resemble cobblestone roads that get ripped up every other week to fix leaking water mains does not inspire a bike rider . The Kawasaki Versys 1000 with all of its electronics masters every road surface with ease and inspires the rider to push a little harder and really enjoy every road and every surface, every time!
Now to get all my accessories to get in the country & fitted. The slow boat from Japan or Thailand needs to hurry up , i want my top box, heated hand grips, bobbins and Panniers.
I have already fitted the handguards and radguard. Spock looks even better now.

Posted: 22/03/2012 at 14:20

I just px my zzr1400 for the 1000 . I took out the tiger1200 and there no different . I even took me mates gs out and didn't like that . This is a fantastic bike , only problem is need to lower it a bit because of my little in side leg . We go away to Europe every year and can't wait till may as going on this to Eastern Europe . Anyone got ideas about lowering it .

Posted: 11/10/2012 at 20:27

I seen M&P in Swansea have a lowering kit for the Versys 1000, i seen it last night on there web site, I hope this helps.


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Posted: 05/11/2012 at 06:54

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